From time to time my brother sends me cryptic messages about my disabled sister; “she needs new bras” or “she needs new trousers” to which I usually reply: “what size?” as my sister’s weight fluctuates.
The most recent request was for trousers so I set off for Princes Street (I had ascertained that current size was 12) with the determination to jazz up my sister’s previously dull wardrobe of two pairs of elasticated black trousers. At BHS I got quite excited by semi-elasticated trousers in shades of jade and khaki. Now it may sound like a simple purchase but there are always caveats. Trousers must be easy to pull on, not too tight round the waist and ankle (so gold leggings are a no-no). Luckily I tried on the ones I had selected and found out why they were at sale price–they were incredibly small fitting, so no good at all. Alas I had to go for the standard “classic” navy and (pushed the boat out here) tweed effect dark grey elasticated trousers. So than I looked for some jazzy tops. Tops have to button up the front (my sister has a stiff arm, so no pull ons), not be see through, must be easy wash and non-iron (she lives in a care home) and I always try to buy something she might have chosen herself, so go for European chic. I couldn’t find anything in BHS so tried Primark. Found a gorgeous polka dot (nod to Duchess of Cambridge) navy and cream long sleeved blouse. but when I got to the cash desk, the sales lady said she couldn’t sell it to me because the laundry label was missing! At which point I gave up.
Before my sister became disabled I used to drag her round the shops and shove garments at her in the changing room. She had a large budget for clothes but her patience for shopping generally waned early in the trip. My determination usually kept her going a bit longer than her own preference and we often came home triumphant. As her illness progressed she made repeat buys of tights and pants which lay around her bedroom still in packets. We went on holiday to the Canary Islands and she had packed two blue t-shirts, a large wall clock, a swimsuit and a black dress. So the first thing we did was go shopping for shorts, a skirt and a cool cotton top. Then the poor love got horribly sunburnt and had to spend a couple of days in a polo neck shirt. It was a strange holiday, punctuated by endless requests of “shall we have a cuppa?” and my sister going repeatedly to the wrong bedroom. She had been a swimmer albeit a timid one, but even in the children’s pool, with me supporting her, she refused point blank to take both feet off the bottom. Even then, she was clinging on to something that she was aware of losing.